Vitamin K2 and the calcium paradox
Deficiency in K2, an under-appreciated vitamin we used to get from grass-fed animals, puts many people at risk of ‘silent killers’ like heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes–even infertility.
Are you taking calcium or vitamin D to keep your bones strong? If so, I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. Let’s dispense with the bad news right away. In recent years multiple studies have shown that people who take calcium supplements experience about 25% more heart attacks and strokes than those who don’t. Ugh!
Millions of women take these supplements because they are proven to increase bone mineral density and lower risk of hip fracture. However, it seems that a portion of the added calcium that doesn’t reach our bones winds up clogging our arteries, leading to heart disease. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that other research has revealed a nutrient that can safely guide calcium into bones and teeth, where we need it, while keeping the mineral out of arteries, and even remove pre-existing calcium deposits. This is the action of vitamin K2, a long misunderstood fat-soluble vitamin that works with vitamin D to put calcium in its proper place.
If you are concerned about bone health, heart health and cancer prevention, or if you take a vitamin D supplement, understanding vitamin K2 provides a key piece to the nutritional puzzle of your health concerns.
A vitamin that can boost bone strength, reverse heart disease and fight cancer sounds too good to be true, I know. How come we haven’t heard about it before? That’s because it was overlooked for almost 70 years due to a case of mistaken identity.
Since their discovery in the 1930s, researchers assumed that vitamin K1 (found in green leafy vegetables) and K2 (found in animal fat and some fermented foods) were essentially one and the same. Only in 1997 was it recognized that vitamin K2’s major impact is on calcium metabolism, not blood clotting like K1. Even more recent studies show that clinically significant vitamin K2 deficiency is common, which is not the case for K1.
In 2007 researchers declared that most “apparently healthy” people are lacking in vitamin K2 to some degree. So, if you can be deficient and still apparently healthy, why should you care?
The answer: Because a lack of vitamin K2 underlies many long-term “silent killer” diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes, even infertility. In other words, missing out on K2 now puts you at risk for a myriad of health problems in the future.
Vitamin K2 was once abundant in our diets. Back when animals grazed on pasture lands, foods like eggs and butter were brimming with it. As factory farming took over and grain feeding became the norm, our dietary vitamin K2 intake plummeted.
You can restore your K2 levels by taking advantage of the growing availability of grass-fed meat and eggs. Other sources include Gouda and Brie cheeses, along with goose liver pâté. I’m not kidding!
For vegan readers, the fermented, Japanese soybean food nattō is the highest known source of vitamin K2, although finding it is challenging and acquiring a taste for the stuff even more so.
Vitamin K2 supplements are now widely available in health food stores. Look for the term MK-7 somewhere on the label, which indicates the K2 source is natural. About 200 mcg per day will meet the needs of the average individual. If you have special health concerns, you might need more.
The whole story of vitamin K2 is about much more than just a nutrient or even just nutrition. It embodies what we have lost to the industrialization of our food supply and what we stand to gain by getting back to traditional ways of farming and eating.
More Inspiration: Check out this article on the best vitamins for your brain health!
Author: Kate Rhéaume-Bleue is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and natural health expert. A speaker, contributor to many health-related publications and media guest, Dr. Kate is the author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life (Wiley 2012). You can reach her at www.DoctorKateND.com